Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Iraqis united in liberating Mosul

Operations began this week to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State forces in a remarkable display of national unity, reports Nermeen Al-Mufti from Baghdad

Al-Ahram Weekly

“We are coming, Nineveh,” the commander of the Iraqi armed forces and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced at 2:30 am on Monday, launching the battle to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from Daesh (the Arabic acronym of the Islamic State group) and confirming that only Iraqi forces would participate in the operation.

Al-Abadi said in a speech on state TV that “I announce today the start of the heroic operation to free you [Mosul] from the terror and oppression of Daesh (IS),” adding that “we will meet soon in Mosul to celebrate the liberation and your salvation.”

Within less than two hours, Iraqi troops, land and air forces, local and federal police, Peshmergas and tribal volunteers were in action, while Coalition warplanes were bombing IS in Mosul, the capital city of the Nineveh Province.

Before the beginning of the operation, Iraqi air force helicopters dropped millions of flyers on Mosul and the area around it preparing the residents of the city for the battle, recommending them to stay at home, and telling them not to fear the Iraqi soldiers who were coming to liberate them.

At the same time, the Iraqi Media Network stepped up radio broadcasts to Nineveh.

In the run-up to the operation there was a crisis between Baghdad and Ankara because of the Turkish military units deployed in Bashiqa 12 km north of Mosul. Baghdad asked these units to withdraw, but Ankara refused.

The issue became a crisis between Al-Abadi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with the latter insisting on Turkish participation in the Mosul battle and the Iraqi government, parliament and majority of people refusing it.

Turkey then sent a diplomatic delegation to Baghdad, but there was no official statement regarding the visit.

 “It was an excellent plan,” commented retired Iraqi colonel Essam Nour, adding that before the operation began Al-Abadi had visited Kirkuk in northern Iraq, giving the impression that the battle of Hawija would take place first.

Hawija, 66 km west of Kirkuk in the oil-rich northern province of Iraq, is the stronghold of IS, and there had been demonstrations demanding the liberation of the city.

“IS was preparing for the battle of Hawija and was surprised when the Mosul battle began,” Nour said.

A week before the operation started, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani visited Baghdad. In a joint press conference, Al-Abadi and Barzani confirmed that they had the same point of view in liberating Mosul.

For the first time in Iraq’s modern history, Iraqi army forces and Kurdish Peshmergas are fighting together in a major battle. Last June, Iraqi army, Peshmergas and Turkmen hashd (popular mobilisation) forces also liberated the city of Bashir 20 km south of Kirkuk.

Early on Monday, social media in Iraq were celebrating the beginning of the operation to liberate Mosul, with many hashtags becoming trends.

Selwa Zako, a veteran Iraqi journalist, wrote a post expressing her happiness at the united Iraqi voice without sectarian or ethnic divisions that had supported the liberation of Mosul. Did Iraqis need a catastrophe the size of Mosul being under IS control to be united, she asked.

Jerjis Ali, a blogger from Mosul, wrote that “Mosul residents are living in peace. Even the smell of the air is different. We are waiting for our brothers, the Iraqi military forces, to save us.”

Hussein Hassan, an Iraqi soldier, posted a smiling photograph of himself the moment he was informed he would take part in the action. “Dear brothers in Mosul, my smile will continue when meeting you,” he wrote.

Abul-Qadir Diyar, a lawyer who left Mosul for Baghdad in June 2014, told Al-Ahram Weekly that many politicians who had been looking mainly to their own interests had begun trying to make those who had stayed in Mosul feel afraid of the Iraqi military forces.

“We know who they are. They can only speak about sectarianism. But nobody will listen to them. Enough is enough,” he said.

The Iraqi Media Network and Iraqi Media and Communications Commission have announced the establishment of a new National Alliance Media that will serve the Mosul operations and support journalists in Iraq covering the battle.

On the ground, military and security expert Abdel-Karim Khalaf told the Weekly that he expected a great victory as long as the first day of the operation saw the liberation of villages on the Khazar and Salamiyah fronts. “IS has begun collapsing on all fronts,” he said.

Terrorism expert Hashim Al-Hashimi, who posts on the progress of the operation, tweeted that “it is too early to tell, but I am sure that IS will be out of Mosul soon.”

From inside Mosul, resident Qaydar Othman told the Weekly by phone that IS jihadists had almost left the left part of the city and there were no more IS checkpoints in the streets. People had stayed inside their houses, he said.

Meanwhile, the UN has warned of the “huge impact” of the operation on the 1.5 million people in the Nineveh Province. However, at the time of writing there have been no direct indications of new waves of displaced persons.

Preparations have been made should this happen, and camps are ready.

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